Reaction to Battle in Seattle

So I went and saw Battle in Seattle on Saturday night. I warned my husband that I was probably going to get emotional, and that he just needed to be prepared. As I am pretty passionate/emotional usually, I felt I needed to give him fair warning. But to my surprise, instead of being angry or sad, I just felt, withdrawn. I had difficulty talking about it, which lasted well into Monday. An unusual reaction for me, because I usually like to talk about a movie, discuss and dissect it, and connect it to greater world issues. But this was different.

Why was it different? Because I was at the WTO protests. And watching a Hollywood love story sentimentalizing what was for me a deeply-felt political awakening was devastating.  But I think it was also seeing the archival footage that tore me up. I witnessed some of the police violence during those protests, and seeing it again on film was difficult.

To be fair to the movie, they allowed for the characters to voice the messages behind the protest. And they didn’t completely romanticize the characters (though there was some painfully awkward dialogue. How seriously can you take a 26-year-old saying wearily “how long have we been trying to save the planet now?” to another guy in his mid-twenties).

One piece of dialogue that I think captured both the passion and naivate of the protesters was from Andre Benjamin’s character Django. I can’t quote it exactly, but it was something like: “People at least know what the WTO is now … well, they probably don’t really know what the WTO is, but at least they know it’s bad.”

I’m not going to tell my WTO story here. I’m saving it to contribute to this wonderful community history project, organized by the Community Alliance for Global Justice, an organization continuing the work of activists involved in the WTO protests in Seattle.

I do hope that everyone who goes and sees this movie realizes that it is FICTION. While there are elements of truth to the movie, I think the overall effect is to distort what really happened. Instead of it appearing as if 50,000 people shut down the WTO meetings, they made it look like it was the work of about 6 people. Using this Hollywood convention of making a story with strong leading character mischaracterizes the communitarian effort that the WTO protests really were.

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